Sunday, July 7, 2013

From Lake Garda back to the USA

Hard to fathom: A week ago I flew back to the USA, and it is just now that I get a chance to update the blog. Lots of things have happened since my last entry in this online journal, and I will try to keep things short.

For starters, the party after the triathlon in Erding brought with it a chance encounter that may have saved my leg. The partner of one of Sabine's co-workers at the City of Munich is a PT, and when she happened to see my leg—which I believed was healing well and which had not raised the eyebrows of my regular physical therapists—she only said: "Your leg looks like that of an 80-year-old diabetic—there is no circulation in some parts." At the party she started to use a technique called FDM to loosen the fascia and thus started to break up all the muck that was keeping fluids from leaving the area. Brigitte Schmailzl is a PT in Munich who works with Olympic athletes, and it was immediately clear that she knew what she was doing. Those first 25 minutes of massage at the party hurt like hell, but the color of the skin started to improve; on Monday and then Wednesday I went to her clinic in Munich and received two more almost two-hour-long treatments. What a difference they made! I still have fluid in my knee joint, but the skin over the shin bone and the incisions have a healthy color, and things are so much better.
Our first view of Lake Garda, Italy
For our last weekend together Sabine thought of something to give us a little bit of a vacation, after all: She suggested that we'd flee the once-again crappy weather in Freising and drive to Lake Garda, on the southern edge of the Alps in Italy. We booked a room for two nights, and on Friday (with all my luggage for my return trip on the following Monday already packed) we left for sunnier shores. It's about a 4 1/2-hour drive from Freising to Limone, on the west shore of Lake Garda. We drove via Innsbruck and the Brenner toward Bolzano and onward to Trento. The weather became better and better once we crossed over the Brenner, and even though we used the motorway the drive was incredibly scenic with lots of vineyards and mountains to look at. Our first glimpse of the lake came mid-afternoon, in beautiful weather.
The view from our balcony
Sabine had found us a very nice bed and breakfast, and our first-floor room had a small balcony that overlooked the lake and gave us the most spectacular 180-degree panoramic view of this amazing region. The roads down here are amazing as they are clinging to sheer cliffs and often are tunneling through the rock. We took a sightseeing drive on Saturday that was simply breathtaking. Sabine had been here once before and thus had an idea of what she wanted to show me, but she too was surprised by some of the roads that we drove. Wow!
Narrow, scary roads are the norm around Lake Garda
The small town where we were staying, Limone, is named after the former industry of the area: lemons. The weather at Lake Garda is mild enough to allow growing lemon trees, with a little help. So-called limonaia—essentially a type of greenhouse—are still in evidence years after faster train connections from Sicily and other parts of the south meant that lemons could be brought to northern Europe for less money than buying the expensive fruit from Lake Garda. We visited one restored limonaie where the fragrant smell of lemons was as overpowering as that of night jasmine on a summer night.
A limonaie—in the winter, a removable roof and shutters protected the lemon trees
Lemon trees carry fruit in this limonaie
Our two days in Limone and our drive back were a beautiful way to finally enjoy what was supposed to have been a totally different type of European sojourn. I have to thank Sabine for thinking of this wonderful weekend get-away. It was a lot of driving for her, but we both spent restful quality time with one another. I hope that we will be able to visit Italy again before long as our trip to Tuscany had to be cancelled, but the landlord of the house that we had rented ahead of time has told us that we can come down as long as the house is empty. We'll see what we can do.
Sabine's Skoda barely fit through some of these narrow streets
Sunday afternoon we were back in Freising, and on Monday morning Sabine and I said our good-byes. Seven weeks is a long time under the circumstances that we had to face, and we managed not to kill one another or even fight a single time—despite some very dark moments. We certainly had not expected this type of turn of events, and I think we made the best out of the situation. Sabine's son, Jonathan, was a real sport despite our rather confined living quarters in Freising, and he paid me the biggest compliment ever when he told me upon parting that he really enjoyed working with me on his English vocabulary because it was "fun" as I would always throw a few little zingers in there (such as the explanation of the "French Kiss").

My flight from Munich to London to Dallas to Lubbock worked out like clockwork. The transatlantic segment had been upgraded to Business Class, so I was able to elevate my leg much better than in the back of the bus, and from DFW to Lubbock American flew a full-sized S80, which has a First Class section—we were two passengers up front, with 92 more in the back. I hope AA will keep this service! Airport transfers as well as clearing customs with my luggage (the Ritchey, the rolling Patagonia duffel with my regular stuff and my now-checked former carry-on) were no problem as I had requested special assistance from the airlines. Lounge access in Heathrow and Dallas made the long layovers not only bearable but pleasant. Just security took a little longer since the new hardware in the leg set off the red flags!

These pics are so pretty I just had to include them; I think it is 19 screws
On Tuesday morning I saw Dr. Field Scovell in Lubbock for my follow-up. Not only was he extremely impressed with Dr. Maurer's craftsmanship but he also was positive that I would come out of this whole ordeal with a full recovery—eventually, that is. Thanks to the July 4 holiday I haven't started my official rehab yet, but I have used my friend Rod's pool to walk without crutches but with reduced body weight. There's still a lot of swelling in the knee joint, but Dr. Scovell attributed that to all the trauma and was in no way alarmed. My personal goal is to be back on a (real) bike by the end of August.

So, there I am. The first few days were filled with trying to catch up with 7 weeks of mail, being driven around to the grocery store and the pool, trying to find back to my life. Just yesterday I finally couldn't stand it any longer and wedged myself into the Miata—lo and behold, I can drive myself! It feels good to be back at my house, and it is wonderful to have friends on this side of the pond as well.

It will be a while before I am back to where I was just two months ago, but I will get there. Maybe there will be fewer blog updates, and most likely the next few will be punctuated by fewer pics of exotic locales. But I intend to get all this behind me as quickly as I can, with as much patience as is necessary, and then a little extra for those unexpected dark moments. Thanks for reading and all the encouragement over these past two months, and don't write me off just yet. :)


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